Netflix UK film review: Hope Gap
Suitable for a Sunday6
Running on star power7
Charlotte Harrison | On 28, Aug 2020
Director: William Nicholson
Cast: Annette Bening, Bill Nighy, Josh O’Connor
Watch Hope Gap online in the UK: Netflix UK / Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play / Sky Store / CHILI
Films such as Hope Gap serve as reminders, should they be needed, that marriage is never a definite indicator of happily ever after and that issues within a relationship are not reserved for the young. Poet Grace (Annette Bening) and history teacher Edward (Bill Nighy) have been married for 29 years. They have a good home in a idyllical-looking Seaford where they raised their son Jamie (Josh O’Connor), who now lives on his own in a flat in London. Jamie comes to visit at his father’s behest, only to find out he was asked to come as Edward has fallen in love with someone else and is leaving Grace to live with his new partner.
The result is mellow-drama as opposed to melodrama – a film best described with words such as “good”, “nice” and “fine”. The central trio are fantastic actors who provide very good performances and make the best of a film that isn’t quite sure what it wants to be. In fact, it does sort of know what it wants to be – a play. When watching Hope Gap it quickly becomes clear that a theatre would suit the material far better; the film is, in fact, writer-director William Nicholson’s adaptation of his own 1999 play The Retreat from Moscow. A play would have allowed the emotional fallout to have been at the forefront and far more affecting in return.
The final hours of Grace and Edward’s disintegrating marriage are sad to watch, the sense of inevitably either bypassing Grace or being rejected in favour of denial. His wearied answer – “We’re fine” – to her question of whether they’re happy is one of the film’s finest moments of restrained resignation but would most likely have elicited a greater audience response in a live theatrical setting. Instead it, like the film overall, just drifts and blends into an otherwise rather bland film.
The focus of the running time is primarily on how the ending of a three decade-long marriage impacts those at the centre of it, but most of these reflections are internal and almost inaccessible as a result. The tell-don’t-show dialogue tries to compensate for this, but it feels too surface level rather than a deep analysis of emotional fallout in the form of quiet rage.
Hope Gap is an earnest reflection on how stillness can stifle, how what seems ideal isn’t always idyll, and how easy it can be to exist rather than live. It’s just not particularly memorable or compelling.
Hope Gap is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.